Saturday, April 11, 2009

This Special Easter

As this Easter has approached I have been caught up very much in the whole meaning and how very much it means to us this year.

One year ago the day after tomorrow (the day after Easter) Carissa Marie Pearce passed away. A tremendous amount has happened in our family in the past year. About a week and a half before Carissa died, Lydia gave birth to beautiful little Zoe, and placed her for adoption with a wonderful family. Then Carissa died. Two weeks later my Dad got seriously ill while we were visiting in Texas for Dallas and Lynda's wedding and we thought we were going to lose him. One month after Carissa passed away Maxine Law Pearce, Tony's mom, passed away.

While we were all still reeling in shock and pain from everything else, a month later as I sat contemplating everything that had been going on, I thought to myself, "Wow! It's been a whole month and nothing terrible has happened! The next day Dan and Andrea Rae announced they were getting divorced. This was so unexpected and we were already so vulnerable that it set us back on our heals. We were heartbroken that they were going through such difficulties in the midst of everything else.

As the year went on, it seemed that we were beset by calamity on every side. Our company was struggling with ongoing lawsuits, and it seemed that they would never end.

We did have very happy times though. We added two beautiful little grand daughters to the family when Eric and Leanne had their first baby, and Tomi and Dan had their third. Nick and Crystal got married after having dated off and on for about 3 years. Then to our surprise and delight, Dan met, fell in love with and married a delightful young woman named Carrie whom we all adore. She brought with her another beautiful grand daughter, Taya into our family circle.

It has been an amazing year.

I have thought and thought and thought about Carissa and what it meant to have her in our lives and what it means now that she is gone. I have to admit I have had a tendency to shove it to the back when the feelings start to well up and tears are close to the surface. I have had some amazing days in the temple where I felt very comforted and blessed and even had what I call "My Carissa Day". It has all felt very surreal. I think when I think about the reality of her not being here, it's still hard for me to believe and really comprehend.

I have gone up to the cemetery many times to put fun little holiday things on her site (there is no stone yet) and it's really sad to think of her body being there. It really brings a finality to it all. She won't be coming through the door. She won't be going to the store with me anymore to fight over who gets to push the cart. She won't be there to drink the rest of my mostly full drink that I always brought home to her. She won't be with Tony and I when we go to the movies. She won't be with us to do all the things that she loved to do. It's hard to think about.

Today we had the Family Easter Egg Hunt. The pictures from last years Easter Egg Hunt show Carissa as excited as ever pulling her little oxygen tank around with her as she gathered up the Easter Goodies. She was as a little child. She never stopped believing. She loved Easter. She loved sharing what she had in her basket. She loved all the holidays. Today was a bit hard. I missed the magic that she brought to the Easter festivities.

Today I so very much miss our beautiful Carissa. Today I rely on my faith in the Atonement. My faith in the Plan of Salvation. My faith in my lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His mission here on earth. My faith that we will be reunited with Carissa again. Any other thought than that would be just too much to bear.

I am also filled with thankfulness. I am so thankful that Heavenly Father lent this choice daughter to fill our home with unconditional love. He sent us our own personal teacher to teach us all how to treat each other, how to choose to act even if it was contrary to how we felt. He gave her to us for a 22 short years to help us through some really tough times. Every one of us felt like she had been sent here especially to help us as individuals.

She taught me personally what it truly means to love unconditionally. I use those lessons over and over. She was a living example of true, Christ like love. How thankful I am for that.

I am thankful for this time of year to reflect on Christ's mission here on earth. I am thankful that through the atonement, all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. I am thankful that some day I will hear Carissa's delighted laugh again and feel her arms around me giving me a squeeze that takes my breath away. I will feel her hand slip into mine as we walk together. I will get to watch as she administers to others with so much love and compassion. I will get to watch as she plays with the children whom she loved so much. I will get to listen as she bears special testimony of the gospel, Jesus and her Heavenly Father whom she had a sure knowledge of their love for her. I will get to continue to learn at this great daughter of God's feet. I will get to be with my Carissa again.

Easter is a time of hope.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Nine Months since Carissa Passed Away

I have joined a little group of moms who have lost children with Down Syndrome. The ages of the children are different as are the causes of death but one thing remains the same, we have all lost a beloved child.

As I have been emailing back and forth it has made me want to document more what our thoughts and feelings are about Carissa, what she taught us, how her example continues to teach us and how much we miss her. It occured to me yesterday that it was the nine month anniversary of when she died.

I wanted to post this wonderful tribute that Amy put together so that others could enjoy it. When I can figure out how, I will also post the video of Dan's amazing talk that he gave at her funeral. For now, I will just post the text.

I am so thankful for the love that our family has for each other and that our children had for their sister and I hope that you will be touched and reminded of what an exceptional young woman Carissa was.


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When Carissa died, her oldest brother Dan wanted to speak at her funeral. It was such an amazing talk and meant so much to all our family and many others that I am posting it here. I hope it can help others as it has helped me. Thank you Dan, for such a wonderful talk and inspiration.

Carissa – A Pure Heart by Dan Pearce

Carissa’s shining life and example really cannot be expressed over a pulpit. It had to be felt, experienced, and witnessed, as you all know.
Carissa understood love probably more than I or most of us will ever be able. She could feel inside a person’s soul and somehow, could even feel the pains of a person’s heart. If that person’s heart was hurting more than usual, she could sense it, and she would do what she did best, which was to help start the healing. It usually started with a question of concern, then a big smile, then one of her big Carissa Bear Hugs. Then, the verbal praises would start and not let up until she sensed that your heart was at peace again, even if it took weeks or months. She would laugh, and tell you repeatedly over the course of days, “You’re my favorite.” “I love you this much.” “Hello my beautiful.” “Hello my handsome.” And other wonderful things. Then, when you would leave, she’d get out a notebook and her big bag of colorful pens, and write you a letter or two, telling you how much she loved you, how much she loved her brother Jesus Christ, how much she loved God, and how much They both loved you. You see, Carissa understood God’s love for us, and she never hesitated to share it.
Carissa loved to make people smile. In fact, she loved to make whole congregations smile. Anyone who’s ever been to any ward that Carissa was in on Fast Sunday, has heard her bear her testimony. She was always first to head to the front, and she never missed an opportunity to tell the world of her love for the Savior or the Gospel. Her testimony was simple, and was worded something like this, “I’d love to bear my testimony, I love my mommy. I love my daddy.” And then she’d start looking around, and whoever she made eye contact with, “I love my brother Danny. I love my sister Amy so much. I love Jesus Christ. And I love the scriptures. And I love Joseph Smith. And I love President S. Monson. And I love my daddy.” (Dad always seemed to be mentioned two or three times). And sometimes she’d throw out a plug for the family business or let a few of her frustrations out between those statements of love, “And I love my brother Andy on his mission. And Amy stole the fish crackers and took them to her apartment. And I love Jesus Christ, my brother. And I love Mr. Pool.” Then, after closing, and effectively bringing the spirit strongly into the meeting, she would shake hands or hug each member of the bishopric, as well as anyone else on the stand. As she made her way to her seat, she would shake hands with members of the ward all the way down, waving to people, smiling, and feeling on top of the world. There are a lot of people who are going to miss that.
Carissa was not bound by pride, ego, time, or selfishness, a few of the struggles that many of us so naturally have. She was never too busy to visit or care for the sick. She never received a church calling that she didn’t complete with 100% vigor. She never thought herself better than another human being, ever. Think about that. She never thought herself better than another human being. How many of us can say that? She never hid her talents from the world. She never withheld her praise from anyone. She never compromised her values. She never believed that there was a reason to not show her love to others, and certainly never believed there was a reason for others not to love her. The scriptures repeatedly tell us that since the fall, man by nature became carnal, sensual, and devilish. Perhaps because Satan could have no hold on Carissa’s heart, she was never any of these things, and this is the reason she has so many people who loved her as is evidenced here today.
Carissa had a pure heart, purer than any person I’ve ever met. I am brought to ponder, reminiscing on her perfect testimony and unworldly love for the Savior if Christ’s words weren’t fulfilled while she was still here on the earth, “And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Whether then or now, I am confident that Carissa has seen her Maker and that He has welcomed her back with open arms.
Lastly, I want to talk about Carissa the missionary. I believe with all my heart that Carissa was put into this family, into this community, into this world, to bring souls to Christ and to lighten people’s lives. Jesus taught that the handicap are here for this very purpose. When his apostles saw a disabled man and asked the savior if that handicap was because of his sins or the sins of his parents, Jesus responded, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” Carissa was given an extra chromosome so that the works of God could be made manifest in her.
One week before Carissa died, my parents were out of town, and I was summoned to the hospital (where Carissa had just been admitted) to give her a blessing. As I laid my hands on her head, the spiritual pathways between God and man opened and I could not deny that the words coming from my mouth were not my own. It was a very interesting blessing for me. During the blessing, I saw Carissa on the edge of death, hooked to tubes and monitors, surrounded by doctors and family. At that point, none of us had any reason to believe she would ever get to this point, and as I saw this happening, the words of her blessing that came were something like this:
“Carissa, we bless you that your sickness will be a means of bringing many souls to their knees and ultimately to our savior Jesus Christ, for God’s work and glory is the immortality and eternal life of man, and sometimes He uses people like you to carry forth his purposes. Christ will carry you through the hardships you are about to face, so don’t be afraid. Only after those souls have turned to Christ, will things get better for you.”
Then, in her final hours, when her body had given up on her, and we knew that death was upon her, I stood alone in that room holding her hand and pleading with God to please make things better like he had promised in the blessing; it was time to heal her. She had reached the point of her blessing that I knew would arrive, and now it was time for God to do his part as promised. Then, while in my deepest pleadings, the spirit rushed into my soul and my eyes were opened for a few moments. I can’t describe what I saw or felt, I only can tell you that a true look at what Carissa had accomplished on this earth was shown to me, and I also knew right then that her work was done and that things would indeed get better for her, just not here. I stood in tears, stroking her face, and whispered over and over, “I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to be like you.”
I encourage all of you to spend the rest of your lives trying to be more like Carissa. Promptly forgive those who have wronged you. Sing with all of your heart, even when you can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Stop caring so much what you look like. Stop caring so much what people will think of what you say and do. Fulfill your religious duties with excitement and vigor. Love attending church. Love sharing your testimony and be one of the first ones to the front. Serve your neighbor and buoy those who are down. Stop worrying about what others will think! Worry about what God will think and act in such a way. Forget about your job for awhile. Forget about your sports games and time-wasting habits. Look around you and find someone who could use a “Carissa Bear Hug” or maybe just a warm plate of cookies. Don’t judge others. Smile and introduce yourself to strangers. Express your love for all in all times and all places. For truly, these are lessons that Carissa taught all of us.
Carissa was my hero and role model, and I have a testimony that her time here was done, and that her mission has been fulfilled. Just before her death, as Carissa was completely sedated, unable to hear or respond, I found myself alone with her once again, pleading with God for comfort as I held Carissa’s flaccid hand. Christ said, “Blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” I leaned over and whispered through choked back tears, “Carissa, are you okay to go? It’s okay if you need to go.” Suddenly her hand squeezed mine with the same love and strength of one of her famous Carissa Bear Hugs and a warm comfort rushed over my entire body. Even in her final moments she made sure to comfort someone else. I know that many others had similar experiences that day.
Brothers and Sisters, Carissa was okay to go. She had no regrets and no reason to fear. She left this world as perfect as when she came into it. She was okay to go.
Let’s all consider our lives and live in a way that will make it okay for us to go when the time comes. Let’s all try to be a little more like Carissa.
I say these things in Jesus name, Amen.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Christmas 2008

Dear Family and Loved ones,

Wow, where do we even start with where we are in our lives right now. Every year I have written up a Christmas letter and every year it doesn’t get sent. Every year I am determined to get it done and ready to mail in November because December is such a jam packed month for us with our anniversary and six birthdays not to mention all the Christmas festivities that happen all month and every year it seems that November gets all filled up with one thing or another and it still doesn’t happen. I will try again this year. I don’t think I have gotten a Christmas letter out since we adopted Nick, Andy and Lydia from Russia about ten years ago. Over the years, many old friends have stopped sending Christmas cards and keeping us up to date with what was happening with them when they didn’t get anything from us in return. I’m sorry I have been so delinquent! We hope that this letter will find you all happy and well.

This past year has been filled with many different experiences coming to our family. It has been a year filled with emotion, trials of our faith and going through the refiner’s fire. We have had much help from our loving Heavenly Father as He has sent His comfort and peace.

Our biggest sorrow is that we lost our sweet Carissa in April. She was 22. She got pneumonia complicated by a rare fungus that the doctors were unable to identify and treat. When she first started getting sick she received a blessing that said, “And I bless you that when your purpose here on earth is done, you will go speedily back to the arms of your Heavenly Father”. That blessing was fulfilled about a month later as she took a very sudden turn for the worse and passed away very quickly. We have taken great comfort in knowing that Heavenly Father was mindful of us all and let us know that it was time for Carissa to return to her Heavenly home. While we all miss her terribly, we are so very thankful for the Plan of Salvation and the promise that we are an eternal family and we will be reunited with Carissa again. I truly believe that Carissa’s purpose here was and is to teach us what it really means to have the pure love of Christ in our lives. So many felt like Carissa had been sent here especially for them. She had a gift of making people feel loved and that they were “her favorite”. Whenever anyone asks me if there is someone I want to be like, I choose Carissa.

One week before Carissa passed away, Lydia gave birth to her beautiful little daughter, Zoe. Lydia had a very difficult decision to make and had the courage and love for her daughter to place her for adoption with a wonderful young local family. We had the blessing to see Zoe and hold her on several occasions and Tony and I were even privileged to witness the sealing of this beautiful little girl to her adoptive parents. We are proud of Lydia and that she made this heart wrenching decision. Lydia is now working as a nanny and little children can feel her love for them.

A couple of weeks later my Dad got very ill while we were visiting my sister Penny and her family for her son Dallas’ wedding. We were very worried about him as he had to be hospitalized away from home. He is doing better now.

A month later, Tony’s mom passed away. She had been steadily getting in worse health and for the past year had been living in an assisted living center.

One month after that, I had just thought to myself that a whole month had gone by without another calamity when Dan and Andrea Rae announced that they were getting divorced. They just finalized their divorce about a month ago and our prayers are with them that they will both be able to find the happiness and joy of eternal marriages. They have one beautiful little son, Noah who is about 22 months old now. They are working hard to help him know the love of both parents. Dan owns and operates one of our MyComfort stores and Andrea Rae works for him as a sales associate. Dan also is really getting into photography and has his own site: http://www.capturethem.com/ Andrea has her own blog site also where you can read what’s going on in her life: http://www.annandnoah.blogspot.com/

We have had joy in our family as well. Tomi and Dan added another beautiful baby to their family about three months ago which brings their total of children to three. They have Sammy, Joshy and now Elizabeth Carissa. We are honored that they chose to name her after Carissa. Dan owns one of our MyComfort stores and is an aspiring author. Tomi is busy with graphic design, scrap booking and being a wonderful mommy. She has a family blog spot http://hilltimes.blogspot.com/ and a scrap booking blog spot. http://www.tomiannie.blogspot.com/


Eric and Leanne also added their first beautiful little daughter to their family. Amelia Carissa is one week older than Eliza. Having two new grandbabies named after Carissa is a special blessing. Eric also owns one of our stores and Leanne is busy being a wonderful mommy and wife. She does the bookkeeping for Eric. They have been living in England where Leanne is from for the last several years but decided to come and give the retail business a whirl.

Amy and Emily are both working together owning and running two of our stores. They make a great team and work hard to be good business owners. They are both attending singles wards but neither are dating anyone seriously right now. Amy served a mission to Chicago South and has been home a little over a year. Emily was able to get her drivers license and has been enjoying her new found freedom.

Nick moved to Grand Junction and owned and operated one of our stores there. He just married his sweetheart, Crystal in November in a wonderful wedding and reception at our home after dating off and on for about three years. They have just recently switched to our store in St. George and moved there. After Christmas, us old folks will go down south to visit them and enjoy a bit warmer clime.

Andy is on a mission in Nicaragua. He has been out for about 16 months and will be home in August of 2009. He has had a lot to deal with while on his mission but has kept working hard and has had many opportunities to share the gospel and baptize many. He has grown and changed a lot from his experiences. He loves the work and the people. To read most of his letters and see a few pictures go to: http://steadfastfaithinchrist.blogspot.com/

Andrea Nicole graduated from Lone Peak High School this past June. She is currently working at a clothing store and is getting ready to apply for college. She is doing a lot of graphic design just messing around on the computer and is also taking voice lessons. She isn’t really sure where she wants to attend yet. I think she’s just enjoying being an only child and claims to be the “spoiled” one.

Tony and I are thoroughly enjoying being “Bapa and Nana” to all our sweet grandchildren and ‘adopted” grandchildren. Every Sunday everyone that can, comes home to Sunday dinner. We usually have anywhere between 14 and 24 and love being together as a family. There is nothing so sweet as having a little person come running down the hall with arms outstretched, ready for big hugs and kisses. It is different being faced for the first time with being empty nesters. We always assumed that we would be a happy threesome with Carissa as we all fulfilled missions and worked in the temple. I’m thankful for these little ones that brighten our home and lives and help fill that void.

Tony has been working hard being the President of MyComfort, using the technology he and Terry invented to make the very best and most wonderfully wonderful sleep systems and other new and fabulous cushioning materials. Unfortunately we have been involved in law-suits for several years as we try to protect our patents. There is never a dull moment. It is wonderful knowing that they invented such a wonderful product that has helped so many people. Tony is also the second counselor in our bishopric and works hard in that calling. He has enjoyed going archery elk hunting with Terry every year for many years now.

After Carissa passed away, I became a temple worker. I work two days a week at the Mount Timpanogas temple and love every minute serving there as an ordinance worker. It’s kind of fun that I’m considered “a young one” there. Everywhere else I’m considered “getting up there”. I enjoy skiing with my boys and have been trying to get back up the nerve to get into horse riding again. I kind of lost my nerve the third or fourth time I got thrown. I still bowl and am just enjoying all that life has to offer, especially being a wife, mom and Nana. Did I mention how much I LOVE being a Nana? I am also doing a blog spot although I don’t keep it updated like I want to. Pretty much our whole family is on Facebook and keeps everything up to date there and we would love for you to add us as “friends” if you would like to. Just type our names into the search bar and you should be able to find us.

Although it’s been a tough year for us, we are always amazed at the many blessing Heavenly Father sends our way. We have so many wonderful family members and friends that have shown us amazing amounts of love and compassion this past year. We have the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the promises of being together eternally. The December 2008 visiting teaching message quoted President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency: “The gospel of Jesus Christ has the divine power to lift you to great heights from what appears at times to be an unbearable burden or weakness. The Lord knows your circumstances and your challenges. He said to Paul and to all of us, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’ And like Paul we can answer: ‘My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me’ (2 Corinthians 12:9)”

This past year has brought our family closer to Christ as we have come to rely on him for comfort, peace and strength. We are becoming better prepared to do the work He has for us. We rejoice in and testify of our Savior Jesus Christ and the many tender mercies we have been shown throughout the year.

Our hope and prayer for you and yours this Christmas season is to be able to feel of His divine and profound love in your lives not only now but throughout the coming year.

Love,
Tony and Carrie Pearce and family

I Love Him. I'll Serve Him. He is my Savior.

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